OPINION: Tanzania’s ruling party CCM has not found a way out of the rat race

Sunday July 5 2020

 

By Erick Mwakibete

CCM’s chairman President John Magufuli returned his party’s nomination forms with a celebratory mood in Dodoma. Even though the party had declared the race for the presidency in CCM to be ‘open’ to all eligible CCM members, in the end its ‘tradition’ prevailed. After all, any challenger to the incumbent would have had a task far more complicated than that of Sisyphus. However, a precedent has been set which will have far reaching consequences in the future for the party and the country as well.

President Magufuli thanked his party and those who sponsored him throughout the country and spoke at length about the other races within CCM, including the race to replace Zanzibar’s outgoing president Dr Ali Mohammed Shein, where he mentioned of the trouble already brewing there with some of those in the race dividing their party.

He talked about the other races as well, those of MPs and councillors. After CCM’s secretary general Bshiru Ally announced that those who intend to run for those posts were now allowed to go, “introduce” themselves but not “to campaign”! In some constituencies, this is a case of closing the stable door with all the horses long gone as there are many CCM members who have either openly declared to run in certain constituencies or through other activities all but declared that they will be running in certain constituencies.

President Magufuli said those aspiring to run for political offices should not do so at the expense of the future of their party as there are many other posts they could be appointed to fill in the government.

CCM has a troubled past with its primaries. The troubles are not some isolated incidents from a few bad apples but systemic.

In the 2015 party primaries, there were many reports from different parts of the country which alleged corruption, bribery, flouting of party election rules, violence, missing names of voters, and even burning of some cast ballots because there were allegations of pre-cast ballots in favour of certain candidates. There are endless Tom and Jerry chases as well with law enforcement agencies.

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In 2010 the story was the same. This apparently simple process of electing supposedly best individuals among the rest within the party to represent them in national elections is fraught with all sorts of chaos. It is a process that almost inevitably, in some parts of the country leaves CCM bitterly divided and cost them some races. The process is such a rat race that when all is said and done, the dust might not settle for an entire political term of five years.

The damage is so cyclic that in some regions CCM has continually lost constituencies because of the bad blood from previous elections. Regardless of whether the individuals in question were appointed to government posts or not, the bitter after taste remains.

One of the most preferred remedy of this troubled process within CCM has been dropping some of the individuals who won in party primaries and pick others who came in third or in some cases order a completely new ballot while barring its members who participated in the annulled vote. If anything, these have been much of temporary measures whose outcomes have been a mixed baggage as in some constituencies those who are dropped pitch their political tents elsewhere and some go on to win elections or turn into political thorns for CCM for decades.

To be fair to CCM, it’s not like its leaders have not seen the damage caused by party primaries to the unity of their party. Some, including President Magufuli have said in public that mistakes were done in picking CCM candidates in some constituencies which ended up costing the party’s political fortunes. However, a permanent solution has eluded CCM as to how best to deal with the terrible fallout from party primaries.

The Union presidency nearly tore apart CCM in 2015, while the races to be on CCM’s ticket for parliamentary seats or councillorship have constantly divided the party from the grassroots. President Magufuli is acutely aware of all this, under his watch he is trying some different ways to spare his party the same nightmare it goes through during any election. For now though, CCM has not found a way out of the rat race every time there is an election.

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Mr Mwakibete is a socio-political commentator and analyst based in Dar es Salaam